“I am large, I contain multitudes.”
— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Michael Aquino has written that Satanism is “a philosophy of the individual, not of the mass.” Accordingly, he states, “[t]here are no collective policy statements….” The views of people who self-identify as “Satanists” on the basic questions of who or what Satan is or represents and what Satanism is all about run the gamut from theistic mysticism to rationalistic atheism, from spiritualism to strict materialism, from asociality and even downright antisociality to intense prosocial concern for social-justice, from withdrawal from politics or relative libertarianism to fervent political engagement and activism.
Faced with the unenviable task of having to come up with a scholarly framework in which to accommodate all of this variation in modern Satanic movements and thinking, the authors of the 2015 book The Invention of Satanism concluded:
“Satanism is not a single movement with the single voice of doctrine, but a ‘milieu’ with a multiplicity of debating voices. What they have in common may be as much the intentional act of declaring oneself a Satanist as any specific point of view.”
It’s strange, at first, to think that the only common link holding the macro-group of self-described Satanists together may be little more than the individual act of each “member” declaring themself a Satanist, but then again Satanism was never much of a group. Even the relatively formal Church of Satan, founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey, describes its institutional structure as simply “a cabal of like-minded, highly independent individuals who don’t require a social support group.” For folks at entirely opposite ends of the theistic-atheistic, reactive/lawless-socially conscious, apolitical-political spectrums, even such a cabal on the basis of “like-mindedness” seems too much of a stretch.
The fact is, “true” Satanists are united by little more than the desire to declare themselves Satanists, to assert their sovereign individual authority, and to enjoy the act of transgression. What actually being a Satanist or living as a Satanist, exercising sovereign individual authority, and transgressing look like on the ground is all up for grabs: open to debate and, ultimately, personal choice.